Protecting Natural Forests, Regenerating, Mimicking Old Forests to Create New Ones
Today March 21 is UN International Day of Forests , also called World Forestry Day. While protection of natural forests has always been very important, at no other time was this more important than in present time with its unprecedented threat of climate change and survival crisis, many sided threats to livelihoods of indigenous and tribal communities as well as the fast depletion of wild life. Protection of natural forests has a very important role in reducing all these threats , as well in sustainable, careful harvesting of very healthy food and precious medicines and in providing invaluable soil and water conservation resulting in protection from drought, floods and landslides.
In addition the task of regenerating degraded and depleted forests has become very important. This task is best done with the close involvement of local communities, also providing very useful and creative livelihoods near their home. In a phased way portions of degraded areas can be fenced or otherwise protected from human interference ( while other areas remain open to grazing and other needs of local communities), so that over a period of time rested natural forest can regenerate. Then another part can be regenerated in a similar way, and in this way gradually an entire area has the potential for regeneration.
The present times of climate change have the greatest need for more forests, particularly keeping in view that so much forest cover has been destroyed in recent decades . However this should never be confused with commercial plantations or monocultures which can even be harmful for environment in several contexts. The best way of creating new forests should be to try to mimic nature as much as possible so that the forests we create come very close to mixed natural forests which have existed in any region for a long time. Even though human beings cannot really copy the bounty and genius of nature, they can humbly try to come close to it.
Forestry practices should have a very healthy respect for nature and should try to learn from nature. Foresters of the organized sector should seek to have very close understanding and cooperation with local communities, particular indigenous communities and tribal communities and should seek to learn from their traditional wisdom. Efforts should be made to correct and repent the historical injustice done to many of these communities all over the world and one way of doing this is to integrate their sustainable livelihoods with the protection of forests in many creative ways.
The approaches of commercial exploitation of forests as well as complete isolation of forest areas should be given up in favor of the carefully guided approach of protecting and expanding natural forests by integrating creative and sustainable livelihoods of local rural communities with the important task of protecting forests.
The destruction of natural forests for expanding mining, industrial and urban interests should be given up entirely. Only sustainable livelihoods of local communities in keeping with the protection of forests should be encouraged.
Bharat Dogra is a journalist and author. His recent books include Protecting Earth for Children and Planet in Peril.